External focus of attention improves performance in a speeded aiming task

Shana K. Carpenter, Keith R. Lohse, Alice F. Healy, Lyle E. Bourne, Benjamin A. Clegg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Athletic skills are often executed better when learners focus attention externally (e.g., on the trajectory of the ball after a tennis serve), rather than internally (e.g., on the position of their arm) (e.g., Wulf, 2007a). The current study explored the effects of attention focus on learning of speeded responses, and examined whether these benefits hold for retention and transfer. Participants performed a computerized speeded aiming task while focusing on the direction of the cursor (external focus) versus the direction in which their hand moved the mouse (internal focus). One week later, half of the participants performed the same task again (retention), and half performed the task under conditions in which the mouse movements were changed (transfer). Relative to internal focus, external focus led to faster acquisition and better maintenance of speeded responses over the retention interval.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)14-19
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Applied Research in Memory and Cognition
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 2013


  • Focus of attention
  • Retention and transfer
  • Skill acquisition


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